Logo 1 #topThe Poor Man's Fix-it shop.[not for the proficient craftsman] . . . .Logo 2


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    For many years I sold my artwork at Saturday art fairs. Such affairs are hard on the artist as well as on the art work, especially those paintings framed using glass. My display, I discovered from my very first experience, ended up being nothing more than a shortcut to the more established and popular artist who set up behind me facing the other way.





    At the end of my "career" as an artist, or just about anything else for that matter other than a writer, I had established what I called an art "school" where I taught art during the evenings in this Indian novelty shop. Since the shop was closed at that time, I moved the tables from the center of the room and set up ten TV trays and folding chairs. Those of you who have seem my article on Indian costumes may recognize my costumes hanging on the walls.



    This is my art studio where I worked part time as an assistant director, where I slept during the evenings, and where I did my art work. My portion of the studio is on the right where the costumes and the painting of an Indian is set up. The painting on the left is a partially completed painting by an artist much more accomplished and established than myself. I learned a lot of what I know by watching her at work. 




    The working corner of this same studio. 

    Where the studio was located used to be a very popular town buzzing with activity. It (the city) had even gone so far as to create a plaza through the center of town restricting traffic and allowing for foot traffic only. But poor city management caused the town to become nothing more than a sort of Greenwich Village for the poor, the once popular Woolworth and JC Penny building now a habitat for poor artists such as myself, as well as the many antique shops that are the death knell for dying cities.





    Art shows are part of the regimen for an up and coming artist, as well as for the established artist or craftsman. Since I didn't follow the dictum of the local college art instructors, preferring to paint realistically and with some degree of skill and understanding of the craft and to frame my art appropriately (as per my own opinion), I rarely received any honors for my work, even though it often drew popular spectator acclaim. I felt as if my displaying my work was hardly more than a public service since it cost me more than I ever made from the events.

    People are funny, funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha. In the beginning I offered my wares at what I considered to be an appropriate price, that price being especially low since I was unexperienced and reasonably unskilled at the time. No one bought what I offered. Then I doubled this price, and people began to buy my work, the same work that didn't sell at the previous price. I again doubled this price, and I was able to support myself.

    People buy for every other reason than the one they should be buying for. I've seen the worst of paintings done by the poorest of craftsmen, selling for the highest of prices. I decided that in order to support myself as an artist I would create two factions for the business. The first of these factions would allow me to use my own name and paint what I consider good art, and the second faction where I would produce quick junk, shlock, that people will buy and that will support me. This idea never came to fruition however.


     We're back in my studio again. There has been a new wrinkle added to the decor however. At the wall to the right I've set up a carpeted table where I not only framed my own artwork, but where I framed the work of other artists as well. One thing I learned about the craft of art: It's not the artist who makes the money from the labor of the artist, but everyone who the artist depends on for the sale of his work. The artist figures his work should sell for such-and-such a price, a fair (or below fair is more likely to be the fact) reward for his or her labor. He then needs to have the work framed in order to protect it and present it to the public (and which the potential purchaser of the piece will wish to be changed). This frame will cost more than the price the artist is asking for his piece of art. Then comes the gallery that decorates their wall with your masterpiece, who demands from 40 to 60% of the sale of the piece, including the price you had to pay for the frame that embellishes your art. What you, the artist, considers as fair, now sells for four times that amount. And if anything happens to the piece of art while hanging on the wall, such as theft or shattering on the floor, there is no one to lose from the ordeal but the artist, everyone else having lost nothing, or such as the framer, has already made their money from your efforts.



    My very first art show taught me the reality of the business. I found that both the judges of art as well as the customer has no real understanding or appreciation of art, only what is popular for that culture. The judges were giving awards for nothing but junk, and the purchasers were buying what best fit over their sofa rather than buy art for art's sake. Once while sitting at the desk of a large local show a young girl brought in her best attempts at art, but wasn't sure it was good enough to display (and for good reason). I told her she needn't worry about the judging but rather she should just enter the show for the experience, which she did. The judge thought her work was abstract it was so poorly done and he gave her first place in that division. Meanwhile a masterly piece we all ( especially those of us instrumental in setting up the show) considered to be the best work entered, wasn't even given an honorable mention by the judge (an art instructor at the local famous art college). The administrators of the show were mildly frantic over this outcome since this obvious omission would certainly reflect on the gallery and cause future shows to be less attended. To rectify this problem they established an new category by which to award this piece special recognition.
   The picture on your left is a detail of one of my first drawings done in standard pencil on nothing but a piece of typewriter paper. The frame I put it in was something I found in a thrift store for a dollar-fifty. The show directors didn't think this picture worthy of anything more than to be hung on the wall of an obscure basement of the gallery (which I agree it didn't deserve place on the main display). However this piece sold for a $150 dollars, while the award-winning pieces not only didn't sell, but could be found in every show, earning high awards from the "learned" judges, but bringing in no income.
   Art, I find, is something that should be for it's own sake, not for what others may think of it, especially if that "other" happens to be an art critic or instructor.


    Over time I gave up the idea of making money as an artist (before taking up teaching art) and spent all my working time framing. It's through framing I was able to support myself. I traveled a circuit of over a hundred miles collecting jobs, mostly from comic book stores who liked to have their art specially framed. To the left is an example of the framing I did when I worked at a large local frame shop and gallery. While working with them they sent me to framing school, where I earned a certificate, but learned very little since I was doing work far beyond the basics they taught in the 5 day school.

    This picture (a print, not something I painted) is three dimensional with a copy of the shield in the painting built into the frame. I used trimmed and painted dove feathers for the eagle feathers on the shield. The mat is wrapped in leather like fabric, and the design cut into the mat is the symbol of smoke issuing up from a peace pipe, the symbol of prayer. Being able to understand and "speak" sign language comes in handy at times.


   For a time I worked at a common frame shop as a part time framer. Everything that came in was matted the same way, nothing fancy whatever, even though the owner knew I had the skill to do so. People didn't know they were being "taken" since they don't know what to look for. They trust the one who holds the position of authority. I've seen this in many different fields, the lack of integrity of the one in position, and the lack of ability or interest in in the public to look any farther than the surface. A person with integrity is likely to have a difficult time making a living in this superficial society.
   Eventually even framing gave way to my art school, where for a time I was making the money a doctor makes, at least for the number of hours I worked, which was only 8 hours a week. Far too soon however the bottom fell out of the art market, causing frame shops and gallerys to collapse, as well as the art schools. I thought I would be able to scoop up the remnant of the students left without a school. Such was not to be, I lost almost all my students as well.
   Take note of the matting of the picture inset to the left. Notice how it fits the painting, repeating the border of the picture. Being able to see what the picture calls for, and being able to accomplish this calling is something that few framers are willing or able to perform, And on top of of this few people are able to appreciate or even notice what has been applied to their art piece, and those who can can't afford the extra time and money it takes to pull off the job correctly.


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